While it’s important to guard your credit card information, it’s equally important to monitor your credit history and watch for new accounts that were opened without your knowledge, as criminals are doing that more and more. Two effective options to protect yourself are credit fraud alertsstyle=”text-decoration: underline”>, which require lenders to take additional verification steps before opening an account in your name, and a credit freezestyle=”text-decoration: underline”>, which prevents anyone from accessing your credit reports.
Credit card fraud losses
The amount of money lost due to fraud using existing credit or debit cards decreased substantially last year, from $8.1 billion in 2017 to $6.4 billion in 2018style=”text-decoration: underline”>. And we should note here that consumers aren’t footing the bill for most of those losses due to financial regulations governing unauthorized transactions.
With unauthorized credit card transactionsstyle=”text-decoration: underline”>, you’re not liable for anything if the thief stole your card number but not the card itself. If the thief had your card and used it for the purchase, the most you’re liable for is $50 in fraudulent charges. Many card issuers will waive that as well, which is why credit cards are the most secure waystyle=”text-decoration: underline”> to pay for purchases.
The bottom line is that the banks end up taking on most of those losses from card fraud.
At the beginning of this article, we saw that there could be a connection between the huge Equifax data breach and the subsequent spike in identity thefts. And when we looked at credit card fraud, we saw that fraudulent credit card accounts and criminals using card data without the physical card were behind the increase in credit card fraud.
This begs the question — where are they getting people’s information? Often, the answer is through data breaches.
Data breaches and records exposed in 2018
In 2018, there were 1,244 data breaches and almost 450-million exposed records (446,515,334)style=”text-decoration: underline”> containing personally identifiable information (PII). PII is any information that could identify an individual, and it can be divided into sensitive PII which could harm the individual and non-sensitive PII which could be gained from public sources.
Data breaches are measured by the number of breaches and the total number of records exposed. So in 2018, despite there being 23% fewer data breaches than there were in 2017, the number of exposed consumer records containing PII went up by 126%.
In addition, those breaches also exposed over 1.68 billion non-sensitive recordsstyle=”text-decoration: underline”>, such as email addresses and usernames. While most consumers don’t worry as much about this, every piece of information a criminal has on a person can potentially help them access accounts and obtain more sensitive data.
Data breaches by industry, 2017 and 2018